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Fishermen & Friends Reunion

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For many years there has been Adventist commercial salmon and herring fishermen based in Port Hardy and a few, in other locations as well. This came about largely due to the ‘beaching’ of the GMG floating logging camp that had moved up and down the coast for many years. But times change and as some of these ex-loggers and their offspring put down their chain saws, they saw fishing as a new opportunity.  During the later 70’s, 80’s and 90’s this tiny Adventist fleet was in a period of growth,  due largely to the acquisition of boats and licenses by one First Nations man, James Walkus, an amazingly talented, and blessed fisherman, who… became an Adventist through contact with the floating loggers. 

As time went on, young men who worked on James’ boats as crew, became skippers and started to run boats too, creating a demand for more crew men. James was dedicated to Adventist education and he would always require his skippers to hire two students. Over the years that hiring practice was quite a blessing to many young people, getting them through college and university and onto their careers.

The late 90s saw a big downturn in the west coast salmon fishery. Too many boats and not enough fish. The government was buying back boat licenses and soon unlicensed boats and gear were available on the market for unheard of low prices. This downturn hit the Adventist fleet too, which at its peak was about 40 boats mostly seine boats, but also gillnetters and trollers.

The tight knit, burgeoning  Adventist community in Port Hardy soon started shrinking as fishing jobs disappeared.  Their unique lifestyle, and work out on the ocean, covering the coast from Alaska to Washington, was slipping away like the falling tide. The summer fishing student crowd slowly disappeared and soon families were selling their homes and moving to other areas for work and schooling opportunities.

It was about 10 year after the majority of the Adventist commercial salmon fleet slipped into the history books that many ex-fishermen, summer student fishers and Port Hardy friends got together at Camp Hope for a reunion in October of 2010. Many were unable to make it at that time, and with the passing of 5 or more of this group due to age, cancer, a helicopter crash and more, it was deemed another one needed to be held, and this was in October 2013 on Thanksgiving weekend.

Pastor Ern Brake who had been a Port Hardy pastor had a enlightening and enriching talk on Friday evening.  Bill Gerber shared his “Peter’s Amazing Catch” study for Sabbath School, and teacher Anthony Oucharek touched all of our hearts with a very heart warming and uplifting  talk for the main service. He also shared with us for the Sunday morning worship. After that, there was a lot of reunions, visiting and sharing. 

About 75 people showed up, some for just the day on Sabbath, and some for the whole weekend. For some it was the first time back in a long while. The farthest travelled were from Tennessee, and the closest, they live in Camp Hope. It ended all too soon and by 1:00 pm on Sunday it was just the organizers/clean uppers who remained.  It was pretty much unanimous that the next reunion should only be two years away.

 2013 Fishermens Retreat